Have you ever been hit with a memory so strong you needed to write it down? I have. I just did (though this memory has come up randomly over the years) so even though this is my SECOND blog for today, here it is…
***As a very young girl, I remember going to visit my nana and poppy at their house for weekends with my brother. We would go shopping, play games, and read books – the normal things most kids do with their grandparents. The issue is that I would NEVER go alone. I don’t know why. Something in my gut terrified me of being away from my mom and dad without my brother there to support me. His presence – unlike now – brought me a sense of peace, a sign of reassurance that everything would be okay. I would be okay.
Now there is NOTHING wrong with my grandparents, they were two of the kindest, gentlest grandparents I have ever met and they were never cruel and never said a bad or mean thing towards anyone they knew. But there was something not right with me – something that haunts me to this day. All my grandfather really wanted was an opportunity to spoil his only granddaughter. You see my father was an only child, and he had two children, my brother Paul and me. My grandfather did spoil me rotten when we were both down for a visit, but he really wanted me to himself. To love and shower affection on.
However, my earliest, vivid memory is sitting in the dining room of my current home (my family has lived in that home my entire life) crying because while my bags were packed and I had said I would go, I no longer wanted to go to my grandparents house that weekend without Paul. My grandparents were in the doorway waiting so patiently for me to get over my temper tantrum, but I didn’t. My bags were unpacked, my things put away, my grandparents left saddened by the rejection and my father was bitterly disappointed in me. I don’t remember much about why things happened the way they did – why I felt that way – but I did and I never was given the opportunity to change my mind. My grandfather Albert Kenneth Milway died the summer I was five. July 17th 1986.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My grandfather had been in the hospital and my mother and I had come home from being out shopping and when we walked inside, my father was standing by the window crying and my brother was on the couch sobbing. I knew in my little, naïve five year old brain that something bad had happened. Real bad. My mom must have known instantly as she went to my father to comfort him. My father never cries. And he was crying. His gut-wrenching tears made me cry before I even knew the truth. When I was told, I didn’t understand. Five year olds shouldn’t understand death. I was fortunate – I didn’t. My father sat me down and explained that my poppy had passed away from diabetic problems (back in the 1980’s diabetes guaranteed almost certain death). I cried, but not because my grandfather had passed away, but because I was a disappointment to him before he died. I had not been given the opportunity to spend the weekend alone with him and my nana. It didn’t seem fair and I didn’t understand. This was the first time I can recall being a disappointment to someone, it was not a feeling I ever wished repeating and needless to say, I spent many, many weekends at my grandmother’s house in the years to come trying to make up for something I had no control over.
I wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral, but I remember that day so well. It’s amazing what children can remember. I was sitting in my neighbor’s house, the Franklands, looking out their window as the car drove away holding my nana, dad, mom and brother. I didn’t understand why he got to go and I didn’t. He was 12; turning 13…he didn’t seem that much older. He had cried more then I had! I was being a big girl!! I was angry with my mom, angry that I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye. Of course now, being much older and more mature, I agree with her decision, or maybe it was my dads, completely. Five year olds have no place at a funeral home, especially with a casket containing the body of their grandfather. My neighbor, whose daughter Amy was my best friend allowed me to sit on her couch and stare out the window, but then encouraged me to play with Amy in her room. She probably made me grilled cheese with chocolate milk (my favorite), but I can’t remember. When the funeral was over, my parents came by to collect me, he was gone, buried, and I would never lay eyes on him again. I still have a hard time picturing him without actually looking at his picture. The only actual memory I have of him is the one of him by the door looking so sad that his granddaughter refused to come over for a weekend date.
The wake was held at my home and family and friends of my parents and grandparents showed up with food, flowers and well-wishes. I was there and I can remember so many adults crying and laughing at the same time…it was confusing for my five-year-old mind to process. How could people cry and laugh at the same time? Now I know – it happens every day. Many of these adults (whom I did not know) offered me words of condolence and told me how much my grandfather loved me and never to forget that. It seemed I was a constant topic of conversation for him. I haven’t forgotten that, but at the same time, I was well aware of how much my rejection had hurt him and no matter how much he loved me, I never forgot the sadness I had caused him at my young age. I realized then that my actions or inactions had serious consequences. People would say that I am a giver; that I would give you the shirt off my back if you needed it – and I would, I know I would. I have to. Those early years gave me a feeling in the pit of my stomach that I never want to feel again, and though I have fallen short of myself many times over the years, I have never felt anything that severe, that heart breaking.
***remember this is what I remember, some events may not have happened as described, but they were how I remember them…